The Hard Right and Hard Left Pose Different Dangers

By affirming benign goals, Antifa and its comrades make intolerance and even violence seductive
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The extreme right—neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other assorted racists and anti-Semites—and the extreme left—anti-American and anti-Israel zealots, intolerant censors, violent anarchists such as Antifa, and other assorted radicals—both pose a danger in the U.S. and abroad.

Which group poses a greater threat? The question resists a quantitative answer, because much may depend on time and place. It may also be in the eye of the beholder: For many on the center left, the greater danger is posed by the hard right, and vice versa. Yet the most important reason for this lack of a definitive quantitative answer is that they pose qualitatively different dangers.

History has set limits on how far to the extremes of the hard right reasonable right-wingers are prepared to go. Following the horrors of the Holocaust and Southern lynchings, no one claiming the mantle of conservative is willing to be associated with Nazi anti-Semitism or the KKK. Neo-Nazi and Klan speakers are not invited to university campuses.

The hard left lacks comparable limits. Despite what Stalin, Mao, the Castros, Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez and North Korea’s Kims have done in the name of communism, there are still those on the left—including some university professors and students—who do not shrink from declaring themselves communists, or even Stalinists or Maoists. Their numbers are not high, but the mere fact that it is acceptable on campuses, even if not praiseworthy, to be identified with hard-left mass murderers, but not hard-right mass murderers, is telling.

The ultimate goals of the hard right are different, and far less commendable, than those of the hard left. The hard-right utopia might be a fascist society modeled on the Italy or Germany of the 1930s, or the segregationist post-Reconstruction American South.

The hard-left utopia would be a socialist or communist state-regulated economy aiming for economic and racial equality. The means for achieving these important goals might be similar to those of the hard right. Hitler, Stalin and Mao all killed millions of innocent people in an effort to achieve their goals.

For the vast majority of reasonable people, including centrist conservatives, the hard-right utopia would be a dystopia to be avoided at all costs. The hard-left utopia would be somewhat more acceptable to many on the center left, so long as it was achieved nonviolently.

The danger posed by the extreme left is directly related to its more benign goals, which seduce some people, including university students and faculty. Believing that noble ends justify ignoble means, they are willing to accept the antidemocratic, intolerant and sometimes violent censorship policies and actions of Antifa and its radical cohorts.

For that reason, the most extreme left zealots are welcomed today on many campuses to express their radical views. That is not true of the most extreme neo-Nazi or KKK zealots, such as David Duke and Richard Spencer. Former White House aide Steve Bannon recently told “60 Minutes” that “the neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates and the Klan, who by the way are absolutely awful—there’s no room in American politics for that.” In contrast, prominent American leftists, such as Noam Chomsky and even Bernie Sanders, supported the candidacy of British hard-left extremist Jeremy Corbyn, despite his flirtation with anti-Semitism.

The hard right is dangerous largely for what it has done in the past. For those who believe that past is prologue, the danger persists. It also persists for those who look to Europe for hints of what may be in store for us: Neofascism is on the rise in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Lithuania and even France. Some of this rise may be attributable to regional issues, such as the mass migration of Muslims from Syria and other parts of the Middle East. But some may also be a function of growing nationalism and nostalgia for the “glory” days of Europe—or, as evidenced in our last election, of America.

The danger posed by the extreme hard left is more about the future. Leaders of tomorrow are being educated today on campus. The tolerance for censorship and even violence to suppress dissenting voices may be a foretaste of things to come. The growing influence of “intersectionality”—which creates alliances among “oppressed” groups—has led to a strange acceptance by much of the extreme left of the far-from-progressive goals and violent means of radical Islamic terrorist groups that are sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Western. This combination of hard-left secular views and extreme Islamic theological views is toxic.

We must recognize the different dangers posed by different extremist groups that preach and practice violence, if we are to combat them effectively in the marketplace of ideas, and perhaps more importantly, on the campuses and streets.

 

Mr. Dershowitz is a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of “Trumped up! How Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous to Democracy” (CreateSpace, 2017).

The Hard Right and Hard Left Pose Different Dangers

By affirming benign goals, Antifa and its comrades make intolerance and even violence seductive
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AUTHOR

Alan M. Dershowitz

Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School has been described by Newsweek as "the nation's most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer and one of its most distinguished defenders of individual rights." Time magazine, in addition to including him on the cover story on the "50 Faces for the Future," called him "the top lawyer of last resort in the country -- a sort of judicial St. Jude." Business Week characterized him as "a feisty civil libertarian and one of the nation's most prominent legal educators." He has been profiled by every major magazine ranging from Life ("iconoclast and self-appointed scourge of the criminal justice system"); to Esquire ("the country's most articulate and uncompromising protector of criminal defendants"); to Fortune ("impassioned civil libertarian" who has "put up the best defense for a Dickensian lineup of suspects"); to People ("defense attorney extraordinaire") and to New York Magazine ("One of the country's foremost appellate lawyers"). More than 50 of his articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine Book Review, and Op- Ed Pages. He has also published more than 100 articles in magazines and journals such as The Washington Post, The New Republic, Saturday Review, The Harvard Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal.

Syndicated, more than 300 of his articles have appeared in 50 United States daily newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Herald, and The Chicago Sun Times. His essay "Shouting Fire" was selected for inclusion in "The Best American Essays of 1990."

Mr. Dershowitz is the author of a dozen fiction and non-fiction works. His writing has been praised by Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, William Styron, David Mamet, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and Elie Wiesel. More than a million of his books have been sold worldwide. Professor Dershowitz's latest book is a novel, The Trials of Zion (2010). His book, Preemption: The Knife that Cuts Both Ways, was published by WW Norton in February 2006. Titles among his other books include: The Case For Peace (2005), America On Trial (2004), The Case For Israel (2003), and Why Terrorism Works (2002), Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000, Letters to a Young Lawyer, and Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age. The Advocate's Devil was published by Warner Books in 1994. The New York Times Book Review gave Dershowitz's first novel "A thumbs up verdict...exciting, fast paced, entertaining." The Times hailed this courtroom thriller as "a dazzling, often rather graphic portrayal of that greatest of all oxymorons -- legal ethics." The Advocate's Devil was made into a Tri-Star television movie.

Also in 1994, Little, Brown & Company published The Abuse Excuse, a provocative collection of essays examining the relationship between individual responsibility and the law. His other full-length publications include Contrary to Popular Opinion, Chutzpah, Taking Liberties: A Decade of Hard Cases, Bad Laws, and Bum Raps, Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bulow Case, and The Best Defense.

Professor Dershowitz's writings have been translated into French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Russian, and other languages. His clients have included Anatoly Shcharansky, O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bulow, Michael Milken, Jonathan Pollard, Leona Helmsley, Jim Bakker, Christian Brando, Mike Tyson, Penthouse, Senator Mike Gravel, Senator Alan Cranston, Frank Snepp, John Landis, John DeLorean, David Crosby, Dr. Peter Rosier, Wayne Williams, Fred Wiseman, Patricia Hearst, Harry Reems, Stanley Friedman, the Tyson brothers, various death row inmates, Rabbi Meir Kahane, and numerous lawyers including F. Lee Bailey and William Kunstler. He has been a consultant to several presidential commissions and has testified before congressional committees on numerous occasions.

In 1983, the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith presented him with the William O. Douglas First Amendment Award for his "compassionate eloquent leadership and persistent advocacy in the struggle for civil and human rights." In presenting the award, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel said: "If there had been a few people like Alan Dershowitz during the 1930s and 1940s, the history of European Jewry might have been different." He has been awarded the honorary doctor of laws degree by Yeshiva University, the Hebrew Union College, Monmouth College, and Haifa University. The New York Criminal Bar Association honored Professor Dershowitz for his "outstanding contribution as a scholar and dedicated defender of human rights."

Alan Dershowitz was born in Brooklyn, graduated from Yeshiva University high school and Brooklyn College. At Yale Law School, he was first in his class and editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. After clerking for Chief Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg, he was appointed to the Harvard Law faculty at age 25 and became a full professor at age 28, the youngest in the school's history. Since that time, he has taught courses in criminal law, psychiatry and law, constitutional litigation, civil liberties and violence, comparative criminal law, legal ethics and human rights. He has lectured throughout the country and around the world -- from Carnegie Hall to the Kremlin.

Professor Dershowitz continues to play basketball, regularly attends Boston Celtics home games, and occasionally comments on the Boston sports scene.

In his speeches, versatile civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz addresses social, legal and ethical issues:

 

 

  • Legal Issues: 'Why Good Lawyers Defend Bad Clients,' and 'Global Perspectives on Justice and Civil Liberties'

 

 

 

 

  • Social Issues: 'Religion Politics and the Constitution,' and 'The Genesis of Justice'

 

 

 

 

  • Ethics and Values: 'Does Organized Religion Have an Answer to the Problems of the 21st Century,' and 'Legal and Moral Struggles; Unpopular Cases and Causes'

 

 

Professor Dershowitz resides in Boston.

Copyright 2005, The Harry Walker Agency, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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